Olive Garden ahoy! Also, avast!
Whenever I take photographs they seem to embody a sense of motion, dynamism. It’s as though you are being thrust right through the two-dimensional approximation of reality that my phone lens captured and forced to make your way through a nonsensical reality that pitches and heaves, rises and plunges in turn.
This is not by design. It would be hubris for me to presume that when I aim my camera lens at life I’m actually capturing an image on purpose. No, I’m just trying to blunder after a visual marker can use to remember the day. That’s why after multiple photo attempts, the above picture of brown vinyl is the best representation I can offer you of my booth bench. Brown vinyl. Yikes. As bad as my photography is, the Olive Garden interior designers (may they rest in peace, because there is no way this restaurant was designed within any contemporary lifetime) did me no favors. Obviously they did not intend for people to be marching through their restaurants taking pictures of their food and tables and benches, but it’s like a brown plastic bag of bumps you’re supposed to get comfortable with. Neutral tones, I get it. But is brown even neutral? It masquerades as one, like cream or tan, but brown like this isn’t really neutral at all. It stands out. And there’s nothing worse than a seat that stands.
Anyway, what’s great is this particular seat rocks. Not in the “cool” way, but in the dangerous way. Like, the whole thing rocks from left to right. I don’t know what happened, but some part of the cushion either deflated, broke its bonds, or grew wings, and the result is a wooden-colored beam rocking from starboard to port. Or is it larboard?
The seat has become the sea. The settee has become the ship. The seated has become the sailor.
When I was practicing verses from Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner last fall, I taught James two of the important bits:
The ice was here, the ice was there,The ice was all around:It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,Like noises in a swound!Water, water, every where,And all the boards did shrink;Water, water, every where,Nor any drop to drink.
At the time, he could recite most of this quite well, although both of us have forgotten most of the poem by now. He still likes the poem, though, which–no doubt inspired by our Olive Garden journey–he renamed, Rime of the Ancient Marinera. I’m not making that up (always the hat tip to Dave Barry).
So now, finally, tonight, I have the chance to become the Ancient Marinera, rocking back and forth across the silent still seas, swimming between snakes of linguine and blood-red bowls of marinara. The sunny lamp shines down at us with an unblinking eye.
Like Captain Ahab, spliced to his whale, I am now forever inextricably linked to the Olive Sea.
My seat, rocking now, slowly, working with the carbohydrates to put me to sleep on my own Pequod, my own ocean of Italian cuisine.
My white whale may be made of alfredo, and my albatross is no bigger than a pair meatballs, but, like Ishmael and the Ancient Mariner, I knew what I was getting myself into. Our yearlong voyage to Italy was no mistake.
Ishmael said it best:
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly [March] in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before [bus stops], and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my [fanatical rages] get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s [butts] off—then, I account it high time to get to [The Olive Garden] as soon as I can.
At least, I think that’s what he said.
1: linguine, breaded shrimp, mushroom alfredo
2: lnguine, meatballs, marinara
Thar: She Blows!